An investigation by the Office of Access and Equity at Clemson University revealed members of the women's golf team described the team's environment as "hostile."
Clemson launched a review into the program after allegations were made about the behavior of head coach J.T. Horton.
A parent of a golfer told a university administrator Feb. 29 that his daughter was "subjected to behavior and communication by Coach Horton causing a hostile environment to her." The parent raised concerns about Horton making physical contact with his daughter that was not sexual in nature but made her uncomfortable.
A letter to the parent from the Office of Access and Equity dated March 17 said the golfer "was concerned about being touched on her shoulders by Coach Horton during a tournament." She also "raised several concerns about Coach Horton's coaching style, communication with the team and her overall relationship with him as a coach." The March letter also spelled out what actions were taken by Clemson.
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"There was no violation of any policy," Horton told the Independent Mail on Tuesday. "My goal is always to bring the best out of my players, and we are looking forward to building on the success we have had."
Clemson hired Horton on Aug. 19, 2011, to be the university's first women's golf coach. Horton came to Clemson after four years as the head coach at Tulane University. Through three seasons of competition at Clemson, four members of the team have left the program early.
Ashlan Ramsey, who came to Clemson as the world's top-ranked female amateur golfer and led the Tigers in scoring in 2014, originally planned to stay with the program for four years but left after one season.
"We would have loved for her to stay all four years," Al Ramsey, Ashlan's father, said. "We're sorry that it didn't work out that way. She loved the school, loves the players there, the golf program but the atmosphere created by the coaches just didn't make it possible for her to continue going to school there."
The university concluded there was "insufficient evidence" to substantiate any violations by Horton of its Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy.
"Our investigation did not find behavior based on any of these factors that contributed to the issues being experienced on the team," wrote Jerry Knighton, director of Clemson's Office of Access and Equity, in the letter. "That said, we did find that the majority of student-athletes on the team expressed concerns and described the environment as hostile."
Joe Galbraith, Clemson associate athletic director of communications, issued a statement Tuesday to the Independent Mail. The statement is: "Earlier this spring, an issue regarding women's golf was brought to the attention of our athletic administration. We immediately forwarded the concern to the Office of Access and Equity, which conducted a thorough review of the situation and determined there was no violation of university or department policy. Following the review, the athletic department immediately implemented suggested actions and is moving forward with those adjustments."
When asked if Horton had been reprimanded, Galbraith said the issues have been fully addressed with Horton.
Following the investigation, Clemson decided to have one of two female associate athletic directors — Loreto Jackson or Natalie Honnen — accompany the team on the remainder of its trips this past season. Additional actions were suggested to Dan Radakovich, Clemson's athletic director, "that may be taken to address some of the issues identified in hopes that the overall environment may be improved."
According to the letter, "similar allegations" were investigated in the past. According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the team, Clemson conducted an investigation into Horton's behavior following an incident that took place in December 2014.
Another golfer who left the program early was Lauren Stephenson from Lexington. Clemson's first women's golfer to qualify for the NCAA Championships, Stephenson announced June 5 she was transferring to Alabama, also after just one season in Horton's program. At the time she announced her transfer, Stephenson told the Independent Mail she decided Clemson "just wasn't the right fit."
"That was a really hard decision because Clemson was my dream school, but I knew that if I really wanted to get to that next level, I needed a coach that supported me and would help push me to get to that level," Stephenson said.
Lauren Salazar, who played three seasons at Clemson and graduated in May with a degree in financial management, transferred to Maryland for her final season of eligibility as a graduate student.
T.L. Hanna product Riley Lovorn left the program in 2015, also after just one season at Clemson, and transferred to Anderson University.